Square Peg Survives Its First Night

So the new restaurant axis of Matt Levin/Barry Gutin/Larry Cohen unveiled their restaurant, Square Peg, to the public last night in what Levin is calling a “preview period”–meaning that they’re taking limited reservations and just basically trying to take things a little bit easy while the kitchen gets up to speed.

According to Levin, things went alright. “The progress from friends-and-family to this? It’s been great,” he said when I got him on the phone this morning to check in. And when he said it, there was a notable sense of relief in his voice. I told him that I was just curious–that I wanted to make sure that he didn’t accidentally burn the place down on his first night of pseudo-service, and he laughed. “No, not last night. But we almost burned it down over the weekend.”

Apparently, things did not go entirely smoothly during the “friends-and-family mock service” that preceded the “preview period” (which will extend through April 4, to be followed by an actual, official opening on April 5–we hope). There were…issues. And Levin (who isn’t normally a fella who’s afraid to speak his mind) was uncharacteristically circumspect and careful in the way he described it.

“You don’t understand the room,” he explained. “You don’t understand the flow. And you have some cooks who… Who maybe weren’t as experienced as they needed to be. But that’s what friends-and-family is for, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Because, ostensibly, the room is filled with your friends and your family. Maybe they won’t expect as much. Or at least won’t complain about it.”

“No,” Levin said. “If anything, I think they complain more.”

Still, Levin, his crew and the actual physical structure survived the night, regrouped and came back strong for last night’s service. And while there are still things he’s tinkering with (like making his Jewish/Mexican/Italian BBQ brisket in mole sauce with brown butter gnocchi come out just right at the pass or fussing over the Thursday night beef stroganoff special), he’s confident that his uniquely weird take on classic American diner cuisine is coming together quickly.

Which is good because, sooner or later, I’m going to want to get down there for lobster corn dogs and maybe some fried chicken tacos, and I would hate to think that Levin and his cooks wouldn’t have had time enough to make sure the lemon gribiche and black pepper caramel sauce tasted just the way they used to at the diners I went to growing up.

Square Peg [Official website]